Straight to the Pool Room – June 2016

Pool Room June 2016

If I can’t buy an old example of Célèbre at auction, I’d better start laying down new examples in my cellar and get the aging process going…

Ata Rangi Célèbre Merlot Syrah Cabernet Martinborough 2013 – $$$ – Drink 2020-2023.

Some notable reviews:

Bob Campbell MW | Bob’s Wine Reviews, June 2015 | 95 points.

Merlot (55%), Syrah (35%) and Cabernet Sauvignon. Robust yet elegant red wine with dark berry fruits, violet, cedar and spice flavours. A firm backbone of fine tannins offers structure and longevity without being too much of a barrier at this early stage. The best Celebre I can recall tasting. Drink 2015-2023.

Michael Cooper  |

Pronounced ‘say-lebr’, this is a blend of grape varieties – Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Robust and vibrantly fruity, it typically has impressive weight and depth of plummy, spicy, slightly herbal flavours in a complex style that matures well. There is no 2010 or 2012. The 2011 vintage (4.5*), the first since 2009, is a blend of Merlot (63 per cent), Syrah (27 per cent) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10 per cent). Richly coloured, it’s a stylish, youthful wine with fresh acidity and rich, vibrant blackcurrant, plum, spice and herb flavours, seasoned with quality oak. Showing excellent concentration and complexity, it’s already approachable, but should flourish with cellaring.

What’s in the glass tonight June 24th – Shiraz

Red Sky Shiraz 2014

Off Topic: Red Sky Wines Shiraz Barossa Valley 2014 – $

A red sky at night usually means good weather. But not necessarily so in the Barossa. A red sky heralds that a dust storm is on its way, rolling in from the Australian Outback. This process has been building the soils of the Barossa Valley for thousands of years. The wind pitches the soils here and there, creating pockets of varied terroir throughout the region.

This wine is dark, dark blood red, edged with scarlet. 14%.

A rich + plumy nose, warm oak and vanilla, with a sharp edge. This is no Rhone wannabe.

There is a smooth ripe entry on palate. Plums and prune and cocoa. Spicce on the back palate. Drying tannins towards the finish, bookended with acid. 86 points


What’s in the glass tonight June 20th – Grenache


Cloud 9

I was L’s “plus 1” at a Chiropractic conference on Denarau Island in Fiji last weekend. A highlight of our last day was boating out to Cloud 9, a floating dive platform anchored at Roro Reef off the northwestern flank of Malolo Island in the Mamanucas. We spent the day there snorkelling, bombing off the top deck, eating pizzas and drinking lots of Fiji Bitter in the sun. Paradise.

One of the participants I met at the conference was a very engaging and knowledgeable Chiro and winemaker, Arron Scott. He studied winemaking as an adult, part-time. He started off buying grapes to make his wine, but eventually bought his own property. He generously presented a bottle of his Grenache for us to try at a group dinner on our last night. This was a bottle he had brought all the way from home.

Jinu Grenache 2014

Jinu Wines “Mummas Little Helper” Old Vine Grenache Adelaide Hills 2014

Made from grapes off 60 year old vines. 15%. Purple-ish ruby.

A light easy-drinking wine, delying the alcohols. Indeed, it didn’t taste hot at all. Lots of smooth full fruit flavours of raspberries and strawberries, light on the tannins, juicy and feminine. I have no means of comparison as this is my first ever pure Grenache to taste, so no rating.

I liked it more, the more I tried it tho. Thanks Arron!

What’s in the glass tonight June 19th – Methode Traditionelle

Man O War Tulia 2012

Man O’War Tulia Methode Traditionelle Blanc de Blanc 2012 – $$$

100% Chardonnay from the ‘Pururi’ vineyard on Waiheke Island. Bought at Akl Duty free, consumed in Fiji…

11.9% alc., 6 g/L dosage. Yellow gold, with moderate bubbles.

Lifted bouquet of peach, apple, nuts and (strong) yeasty brioche lead into a palate of firm stone fruit flavours and citrus. Lees and oak backbone. Grapefruit finish. A lively, racy sparkler. 89 points


What’s in the glass tonight June 18th – Merlot Syrah Cab Sav

Ata Rangi Célèbre 2013

Ata Rangi Célèbre Martinborough 2013

Dark claret garnet. 13%

In reference to my previous post, this was one Célèbre that was NOT going to get away from me!

I chose it from the Akl Airport Duty Free Store cos it was one of the few fine wines for sale with a screw cap, as I was not sure that where we were flying to they would have a corkscrew in the hotel room…

Blend of Merlot 55% Syrah 35% balance of Cabernet Sauvignon.  From the fantastic ’13 vintage.

The Merlot provided softness and richness of black fruit. Syrah offered florality and bouquet. Cab Sav the tension and structure and weight of finish.

There was Vibrancy and expression through the roof. Sizzling acid. Spicy and plummy. Violets and wallflowers. Boysenberries and dark chocolate. The Syrah notes sang. Primary and mouthwatering.

Still too young now. This wine will live forever. It needs another 5 years alone to knit together into a legendary NZ wine.

A cracker! 95 points

Tasted from our balcony at the Fiji Sofitel Denarau. Life is good…:-)

What’s in the glass tonight June 16th – Cotes du Rhone

Louise Bernard CdR 2013

Off Topic: Louis Bernard Cotes du Rhone 2013 – $$

Dark purple plum.  12.5% alc.

My nose is full of cold and I can hardly smell a thing, but this wine tastes pretty good – soft, ripe and fruity.  Good density and balance. A nip of tannin. There are savoury aromas there as well, but I shouldn’t trust the olfactory equipment too much tonight…

We are off to Fiji in the morning for a few days in the sun, and life is swell! 88 points

Hammer Time

dYquem 2001

There was another fayne wayne auction at Dunbar Sloane’s yesterday.

I had my eye on picking up one of the 2005 Bordeaux lots on offer but the bidding got too rich for me. The wines may well be worth what was bid for them, but I’d rather invest that sort of wedge into fine New Zealand vintages and build my knowledge through wine tastings on the side.

A single bottle of Ch. Leoville Barton St-Julien 2005 went for $180 + buyer premium of 19.55%, and a bottle of Ch. Pontet-Canet Pauillac 2005 sold for $250. Even the modest Ch. Monbrison Margaux 2005 went for $65. I should have gone for that…

As for the three bottles of Jaboulet La Chapelle Hermitage 2009, they were snapped up for $340 apiece. And the 750ml bottle of Ch. d’Yquem 2001 (admittedly the finest vintage of the past 50 years)? It floated out the door for $800…

I have to leave for evening kid duty, so I left behind some absentee bids for an Ata Rangi Celebre Martinborough 1996 and a fivesome of various Villa Maria Reserve reds from 1986-1990…

I missed out. Bah!

I should have known – it is quite rare for an absentee bid to beat the room. Next auction, I’ll have to attend with more readies and more time!


What’s in the glass tonight June 11th – Cabernet Sauvignon

CR McDonald Cab Sav 2009

From the Cellar: Church Road McDonald Series Cabernet Sauvignon Hawkes Bay 2009 – $$

Dark garnet claret.  13.5% alc.

Warm dense black fruit, with secondary aroma characters emerging from the mix. Red rose florals, oak and vanilla notes. This wine expresses brooding power.

There is great power and structure on the palate. It is tannic and weighty, and not too joined up yet. Flavours of licorice and cassis as you would expect. I am used to the richness that Merlot would have given to a blend, so on it’s own the Cabernet is somewhat angular, flinty and biscuit-y, with a drying finish. Is there enough body to balance the power? Just.

The structure helped the wine hang together better and soften markedly the next day, when it drank very well, and I drained the bottle to the last. I could have held this for another eight years… 90 points.


MS Bordeaux 2005 Tasting – Pessac-Leognan, St Emilion and Pomerol

MS Bordeaux 2015 1

The 2005 vintage in Bordeaux is considered a contender for the finest vintage there since 1982. Steven Spurrier wrote in the May 2016 edition of Decanter about a 2012 Claret tasting where the participants ranked the 2005 vintage above all the vintages post-2000, and ahead of 2009 and 2010.

This month the Magnum Society offered me an opportunity to taste a horizontal of 2005’s from famous Bordeaux chateaux that I would never ordinarily have the chance to try due to their relative scarcity and cost. And this included a couple of Robert Parker 100-pointers! Wow, another first.

  1. Chateau Haut-Bailly: Pesac-Leognan 2005 (58% CS, 36% M, 6% CF). RP 96 points
  2. Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte: Pessac-Leognan 2005 (64% CS, 30% M, 5% CF, 1% PV). RP 98 points
  3. Chateau Angelus: St Emilion 2005 (62% M, 38% CF). RP 100 points
  4. Chateau Troplong Mondot: St Emilion 2005 (90% M, 5% CF, 5% CS). RP 100 points
  5. Chateau La Fleur Petrus: Pomerol 2005 (80% M, 20% CF). RP 92 points
  6. Chateau L’Evangile: Pomerol 2005 (85% M, 15% CF). RP 96 points

I was looking forward to this evening very much.  It would be my first look at quality Clarets…

JC from the Society presented the wines to us, and here is a summary of his excellent notes accompanying the tasting:

“The dry growing 2005 season produced grapes of exceptional maturity and concentration with the (then) highest recorded levels of tannin, dry extract and natural alcohol. The wine media was quick to acclaim the overall consistency, balance and harmony of the wines following the Union de Grands Crus tastings.

Bill Blatch, the internationally renowned commentator on Bordeaux vintages, described 2005 as “a truly extraordinary year, easy to manage, and without complications.” “The sun shone almost permanently … and what little rain there was fell just before all the vital sequences of the vine’s cycle.” Bordeaux did experience relatively severe, even drought, conditions with rainfall barely half of average, but there were no periods of the torrid heat that beset 2003. The grapes were harvested under warm, sunny skies; the cool nights preserving acidity. Crop levels were modest. The grapes were small in size with a high ratio of solids to juice, and generously endowed with sugar. Few chateaux needed to resort to chaptalization, reverse osmosis or other techniques to concentrate the must.

This tasting focused on the earlier-maturing wines of Pessac-Leognan, St Emilion and Pomerol.


Sub-appellation of Graves producing red and white wine. The well drained soils consist of gravel terraces over limestone and marl. Extensive forest plantations have created a warm microclimate protecting the vines from humidity and wind. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are the predominant red grape varieties with minor plantings of Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot. The wines are similar in weight to the Margaux commune; perhaps rounder and less tensile, and are typically characterised by scorched earth, tobacco and smoky aromas and flavours.

  1. Chateau Haut-Bailly: Grands Cru Classe

USA banker ownership currently managed by Veronique Sanders, granddaughter of a former owner. The property is sited on an elevated ridge of sandy gravels over layers of petrified sandstone, near Leognan. The 33 hectare vineyard is planted with 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petite Verlot. Fermentation/maceration takes 4 to 5 weeks in concrete vats followed by maturation in oak for 18 months (50% new).

  1. Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte: Grands Cru Classe

 Daniel and Florence Cathiard acquired the Chateau in 1990 following disposal of substantial supermarket businesses. Situated in the Martillac commune the vineyard comprises 78hectares with 67 hectares devoted to red varieties and 11 to white varieties. The soils are predominantly gravels with a high iron oxide content. Grape plantings are 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 9% Cabernet France and 1% Petite Verdot. The fruit is fermented/macerated 4 to 7 weeks in wooden vats and then matured in oak for 18 to 20months (60% new).

 St Emilion

The oldest wine producing region in Bordeaux with three distinctive subregions; the limestone plateau (Cotes) surrounding the township of St Emilion, the alluvial sandy plain sloping down to the Dordogne River and the clay and gravel terraces of the north west adjacent to Pomerol. Merlot and Cabernet Franc are the dominant varieties reflecting their ability to ripen on the cooler soils.They produce plum, black cherry and liquorice aromas with flavours of fruitcake, tobacco and spice.Wine style varies according to producer but overall tends to be softer, more opulent and voluptuous than the Medocs.

  1. Chateau Angelus: Premier Grands Cru Classe A

 This Chateaux is owned by the eighth generation of the Bouard de Laforest family. The former manager, Herbert de Bouard, has been described by Robert Parker as “The poster child and catalyst for the quantitative revolution in St Emilion” following the introduction of reduced yields, whole cluster ferments in open vats, malo in barrels and new oak maturation. The vineyard is 39 hectares in area and is situated on the south facing Cotes where the soils consist of clay and limestone. Grape variety percentages are 51% Merlot, 47% Cabernet Franc and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon. Vinification is undertaken in stainless, concrete and oak vats and the wine is matured for 18 to 24 months in 100% new oak.

  1. Chateau Troplong Mondot: Premier Grands Cru Classe B

This Chateau has belonged to the Valette family since 1936. It was (until 2014) managed by the late Christine Valette who engaged Michel Rolland as a consultant in the early 1980s. The 33 hectares vineyard is also sited on the Cotes and is planted with 90% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc. The grapes are fermented and macerated in stainless steel vats over 3 to 4 weeks followed by 16 to 24 months oak maturation (75% new).


This is the smallest region of Bordeaux situated west of St Emilion. The prime estates are located on the plateau which consists of a complex amalgam of clay, gravel, sand and iron ore deposits. Merlot is the predominant variety followed by Cabernet Franc and the occasional Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. Wine style is determined by site and producer but in general tends to be rich and sensual with aromas and flavours of plum, chocolate and exotic spices.

  1. Chateau La Fleur Petrus: Unclassified

Part of the portfolio of Chateaux belonging to the Moueix family. The vineyard is situated on the northern edge of the plateau adjacent to La Fleur and Petrus. The vineyard comprises 18.7 hectares and is planted with 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc on gravelly, clay soils. Both concrete and stainless steel vats are used for fermentation/maceration. The wine is aged for 18 months in 33% to 50% new oak.

  1. Chateau L’Evangile: Unclassified

Acquired by the owners of Chateau Lafite Rothschild from the Ducasse family in 1990 the vineyard has since been extensively replanted and the winery and cellars completely renovated prior to the 2005 vintage. The vineyard area is 22 hectares and is situated on the south east section of the plateau where sandy clay soils prevail. The grape variety percentages are 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. The wine is matured in oak for 18 months (70% new) following vinification in concrete vats.”


But before we could wrap our laughing gear around this lot, there was the serious matter of attending to this year’s Annual General Meeting first. Lubricating the meeting were a small selection of ‘conversation wines’ from the Society’s cellar:


Joh Jos Prum Wehlener Sonnemuhr Spatlese 2001 – 7.5% alc – Brilliant pale gold. Sweet, rich. Honey. Phenols. Gorgeous apples and primary lime still. Harmonious. Splendid.

Keller Dalsheimer Hubacker Riesling Spatlese Rheinhessen 2001 – 8% alc – Sweet, lovely acidity, ripeness and balance. Primary lime again, and also harmonious.

Ruchottes Chambertin Grand Cru 2001 – Floral, aromatic and sweet on the nose. Warm vanilla notes, light, slight medicinal. Lovely.

Gevry-Chambertin Combe aux-Moines 1er Cru 2001 – Light red fruit, secondary characters showing through, with generosity.


What a great selection of wines to get the palate whetted!


MS Bordeaux 2015 2

Then on to the featured selection…I discovered that I was somewhat at sea and so inexperienced in describing these wines that I bolstered my notes with the observations of my better-educated table-mates! Still fun learning tho…


Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte: Pessac-Leognan 2005 – $118 – Deep dark blood red, tending brick. Caramel, licorice, spice and vanilla. Floral characters, some Cabernet Franc aromas. Mealy, with tobacco, cassis and currants. Sweet entry with bright black fruit. Very drinkable, crunchy acid. Hot finish. A classical expression, and improved with food. Some leafiness on palate. Long. 96 points.


Chateau Haut-Bailly: Pesac-Leognan 2005 – $134 – Deep dark blood red. Warm, earthy and savoury on the nose. Dense and earthy on palate too, with rich angular fruit textures. Took a while to open up. Muscular, tensile. Tar and chocolate, with mint.  A hot, dry and powerful finish. 93 points.


Chateau L’Evangile: Pomerol 2005 – $346 – Deep dark blood red. A swirling bouquet to chase of sweet vanilla, deep fruit, caramel and blossom, smoky notes. Layers of deep sweet velvet fruit to taste, with more caramel and the warm of licorice, approaching chocolate. Fine, harmony and balance. A lovely wine with a long and dusty finish. A hard wine not to love – it elevated us to another plateau. One of my two favourites of the flight! 97 points


Chateau La Fleur Petrus: Pomerol 2005 – $134 – Deep dark blood red. I tried two bottles here. The first showed very dumb and lifeless. It was working hard to be anything. My fellow tasters identified a fault, so we had a third bottle opened and discovered a wine that was fresher, aromatic, richer and fruitier. This was probably a case of a better bottle, combined with zero decanting time (the previous wine had been double-decanted since the afternoon). The ‘B’ bottle was distinctive and multi-dimensional – evolved fruit, savoury, earthy, and saline characters all combined. Slightly short in the company,  pleasant though. 89 points


Chateau Troplong Mondot: St Emilion 2005 – $261 – Deep dark blood red. This was drying, and the least evolved. A curious bouquet of brown paper mingling with the usual blackberry and spice. There was power and viscosity on the nose and on palate. Brooding, difficult, unreadable. Chewy tannins, not too joined-up. A classy monumental wine, highly extracted, very modern. 96 points.


Chateau Angelus: St Emilion 2005 – $446 – Deep dark blood red. An ethereal, fabulous wine. An explosion of perfume aromas of sleek red fruit, vanilla and tobacco. Cassis leaf. Dense and elegant and powerful  to taste with sandalwood, oak, & harmonious tannin. It showed sweet and resinous and dusty. A superb wine, refined and opulent. It finished on glorious sweet tannins. My wine of the night. 98 points.




My ‘takeaway’ about these wines would be  several  things – the finesse, depth and persistence of the wines; their age-ability; their ‘sweetness’ on entry; their heat and depth; that they were so dense and youthful after 10 years in bottle. It was just remarkable. I can see now why so many wine lovers are entranced by the wines of this region.


However, I do hope it is more down to the quality and expression of the terroir than just the superlative vintage that makes these wines so delicious.  Bring on the Tranche 2 Bordeaux tasting so I can learn more!



What’s in the glass tonight May 30th – St-Julien

Sarget 2010

Off Topic: Sarget de Gruard Larose St-Emilion 2010

The night before I was fortunate to enjoy a superlative tasting of 2005 Bordeaux’s. My nose and head was still full of sense-memories of the wonderful wines I had experienced from that part of the world*.  I had to keep the feeling going…

So then, this is the second wine of the Second Growth property Ch. Gruard Larose from the appellation of St-Julien in Bordeaux. 70% of the growers grape crop goes into the Sarget.  I bought this bottle en primeur in 2011 from Glengarry, solely on the glowing tasting notes accompanying the offer.

Dark garnet colour. 14% alcohol

Big expressive nose of black cherry, plum, spice and cassis. It smelt perfect.

Sweet entry. Black cherry and pepper  showing on the mid-palate. Firm and tannic, this wine is a hefty delight in the mouth. Young too, probably opened 2-3 years too early. Supple and chewy. Showing some tar and tobacco notes also. Drying finish.

This hit the sweet-spot alright!  92 Points

*Tasting notes to come